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A Journey Under the Sea: The Quest for Marine Anti-Cancer Alkaloids

Author(s): Rita Tohme | Nadine Darwiche | Hala Gali-Muhtasib

Journal: Molecules
ISSN 1420-3049

Volume: 16;
Issue: 11;
Start page: 9665;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: alkaloid | marine | anti-cancer | drug | cell death

The alarming increase in the global cancer death toll has fueled the quest for new effective anti-tumor drugs thorough biological screening of both terrestrial and marine organisms. Several plant-derived alkaloids are leading drugs in the treatment of different types of cancer and many are now being tested in various phases of clinical trials. Recently, marine-derived alkaloids, isolated from aquatic fungi, cyanobacteria, sponges, algae, and tunicates, have been found to also exhibit various anti-cancer activities including anti-angiogenic, anti-proliferative, inhibition of topoisomerase activities and tubulin polymerization, and induction of apoptosis and cytotoxicity. Two tunicate-derived alkaloids, aplidin and trabectedin, offer promising drug profiles, and are currently in phase II clinical trials against several solid and hematologic tumors. This review sheds light on the rich array of anti-cancer alkaloids in the marine ecosystem and introduces the most investigated compounds and their mechanisms of action.
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